|LONGVIEW - Longview defensive lineman Jalen Porter said his team played its best game of the 2011 season Thursday. Porter is probably right, and he probably made the play which will be remembered the most in the Lobos' showdown with DeSoto.
Porter made DeSoto quarterback Desmon White fumble in his end zone with 1:49 remaining in the game. While DeSoto recovered the loose ball, it was in its own end zone, giving Longview a safety and the winning two points in a 23-21 Longview victory before 10,000 spectators at Lobo Stadium.
The victory gives Longview (9-1, 5-0) - ranked No. 8 in the Associated Press' Class 5A state poll - the 2011 District 11-5A title, the eighth consecutive district crown for the Lobos.
Longview also handed No. 3-ranked DeSoto (9-1, 4-1) its first loss of the 2011 season before a Fox Sports Southwest television audience.
Porter said his safety-causing sack of White was not on a blitz. "They didn't block me and I tomahawked their lineman," Porter said. "Big players make big plays."
Longview head coach John King praised his defensive backs and defensive ends for containing the Eagles to 190 rushing yards. DeSoto, which averaged 49.7 points per game, was held to its lowest point total of this season.
"This was our best defensive game. No doubt," King said.
King also praised his offensive line for helping control the tempo and keeping the DeSoto offense off the field. Longview was 8-for-13 on third-down conversions, with running back J'Haston Faggans leading the way with 85 yards rushing.
"We played harder at the end," Faggans said. "We did what we had to do to take care of business."
DeSoto tied the game at 21-21 when White made a zigzag, 41-yard touchdown run with 4:27 remaining in the game. DeSoto got the ball back with 2:33 remaining when a bomb pass from Bivins Caraway to Eric Hawkins was intercepted by Nick Orr. King said the interception was a de facto punt since DeSoto got the ball back at its own three-yard line, setting up Porter's big play.
Faggans gave Longview a 14-7 lead on the first drive of the second half, capping a 71-yard drive. DeSoto was able to tie the game with 3:45 remaining in the third quarter on a three-yard touchdown run by Dontre Wilson.
DeSoto's touchdown was set up by linebacker Michael Richardson, who forced Longview's Tory White to fumble and Bryson Echols recovered at the Longview 41-yard line.
Longview overcame four turnovers.
Longview took a 21-14 lead on a 22-yard touchdown pass from Caraway to Hawkins with 9:38 remaining, capping a 70-yard drive in which the Lobos were 3-for-3 on third-down conversions. DeSoto drove to Longview's four-yard line on its ensuing drive, but on a fourth-and-one play, DeSoto had a bad snap and Corey Bartley recovered the loose ball for Longview with 5:41 remaining.
Defense was the featured skill of both teams in the first half as they battled to a 7-7 tie at halftime.
DeSoto's most efficient drive in the first half was its first drive, especially with one play. On a fourth-and-one at the DeSoto 47-yard line, tailback Devin Rushing broke around the left side for a 53-yard touchdown run with 10:42 left in the first quarter. After moving 75 yards on its first drive however, DeSoto had just 70 total yards the rest of the half.
Longview attempted a trick play on its first drive as punter Adam Mack completed a pass to Deontre Wilson on a fourth-and-eight play at the DeSoto 37-yard line, but DeSoto's Alex Lyons tackled Wilson for a three-yard gain to end the threat.
Longview had a big defensive play on DeSoto's next drive as the Eagles went for it on a fourth-and-four at the Longview 48-yard line. Raheem Wilson completed a pass to Kyle Collins, but Longview defensive back Davatric Cooks stopped Collins for a three-yard gain.
Longview's first serious scoring threat was early in the second quarter, but DeSoto defensive back Vondrick Jackson forced a fumble by Longview tight end Colin Jeter and Jalen Mills recovered at the DeSoto 33-yard line. Jeter redeemed himself on Longview's next drive, making an over-the-shoulder, 60-yard reception from Caraway, but that drive ended with a 37-yard field goal attempt by Israel Madrid going wide right with 4:51 left in the second quarter.
Longview safety Stephan Maxey would set up Longview's first score with an interception of a Raheem Wilson pass, returning the pick 29 yards to the DeSoto 14-yard line. This set up a 13-yard touchdown pass from Caraway to Jeter with 2:53 left in the first half. Jeter had three receptions for 87 yards in the first half and for the game, season-highs in both categories.
DeSoto had a scoring chance in the closing seconds of the first half. DeSoto defensive end Courtlin Davis forced Longview's White to fumble and Echols recovered for the Eagles. This set up a 40-yard field goal attempt by Echols with 0.6 of a second left in the half, but the attempt went wide right.
Longview had 166 total yards in the first half, with Caraway going 7-for-10 on pass attempts for 112 yards. DeMarkus Lathan had six tackles for Longview in the first half while teammate Larry Thomas had two tackles for losses. Lathan had nine tackles in the game. Lyons led DeSoto with six first-half tackles while Richardson led all players with 11 tackles for the game.
Longview will play a Class 5A Division II bi-district playoff against Temple at 2 p.m. next Saturday at Tiger Stadium in Corsicana.